Bert Rigby, You’re A Fool

Dir: Carl Reiner, 1989

bert rigby

Known primarily as a comedy actor and collaborator with Steve Martin, Bert Rigby, You’re A Fool seems a rather odd cinematic choice for veteran star, Carl Reiner.

His semi-musical about a Yorkshire miner with aspirations to grace the stage, lacks the crudity and coarseness that you would find in his other work such as The Man With Two Brains or Fatal Instinct. The clever and intelligent Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, showed that Reiner can put out an incredibly good film if given the right ingredients.

However; for this, everything that is needed to make the story work, just isn’t there. Unfamiliar to many an American audience, British television actor Robert Lindsay doesn’t have the appeal or charisma to be a leading man. Hailing from Ilkeston in Derbyshire, Lindsay attempts a strong Yorkshire accent that he can’t grasp and comes across as a parody of a working class Yorkshireman. There’s no sincerity in the role, or the depiction of mining towns in general.

But it’s not entirely Lindsay’fault. Reiner is a Jewish American and unfamiliar with the British way of life in Thatcher’s Britain. The social upheaval that the country fought through, coupled with the looming threat of pit closures and redundancy of thousands, is not at play here. Reiner, merely, bypasses all of this to depict a fluffy and happy-go-lucky air of fantasy and community spirit.

Devoid of realism, Bert Rigby, You’re A Fool misses the opportunity to make an impact and waters down the theme of the film; hope, dreams and and escape from the rising unemployment and a town in its death throes.

With the likes of The Full Monty, Brassed Off and Little Voice that followed in the succeeding years, the faults in Reiner’s movie are magnified tenfold; shining light on a man who is uneasy with the material as he hasn’t got a grasp of working class Britain.

From a content point of view, the film is rather uneven as Reiner can’t make his mind up on whether it should be a film for all ages or an adult movie. At its heart, Bert Rigby, You’re A Fool is an innocent movie without strong language, gratuitous sex or drugs that could be enjoyed by the whole family. But, Reiner then adds a few saltier swear words and an unnecessary scene of a topless woman that pushes the certificate to a ’15’ in the UK and an ‘R’ in the US, which prohibits under seventeens.

As a comedy, the jokes fall flat, so you have a film that is, for the most part, unfunny. Yet, it can’t be ignored that there is a charm to the film and, running at a little over ninety minutes, doesn’t outstay its welcome. Clearly a tribute to the musicals of yesteryear, the renditions of the classic numbers are somewhat enjoyable and Lindsay is adept at singing and dancing.

Overall, an interesting effort by a director trying something different, but he should stick to what he knows best.

Okay on a sub par level, but quite forgettable in the long run.

5/10

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